Monday, April 12, 2010

Star Trek by the Minute 097: Arrival at Titan

The Enterprise jumps out of warp in a beautifully rich fog of dense brown clouds.

Sulu: "Give me one-quarter impulse burst for 5 seconds, I'll do the rest with thrusters.  On my mark..."

Chekov confirms "Aye."

"Fire."
The ship rises from the clouds with what we can only guess are the thrusters Sulu mentioned.  What follows is almost certainly one of the signature scenes from the film, with the Enterprise rising majestically from the clouds with Saturn and its rings in the background.  As we have come to expect, the shot was designed to look cool rather than be scientifically accurate in any way, and its a shame they couldn't have simply set the adventure somewhere else so the script's blatant ignorance was less jarring for viewers who simply wanted to enjoy a good story told well.

Despite how beautiful the CGI is, does this giant flashing Christmas Tree of a starship look anything like it's trying to be "undetectable"?  Wouldn't we normally do something like...I don't know...maybe...turn off the friggin' HIGH BEAM SPOTLIGHTS!?!?  Seriously, is this a stealth mission or the grand opening of a payday lender and check cashing franchise?  How could a drunken rugby player miss this colossal hulk of a ship, much less the super sensors aboard the borgtapus of death?  Further, does that background look like we are seeing the rings from less that one half of one degree inclination?  This shot looks like it could be offset by 100 times the real angle of Titan relative to Saturn's equator, and finally: why in the world is the ship facing away from the plane of the solar system, and Earth, where the Narada is located?  Is it stupidity?  Laziness?  Apathy?  Your guess, dear reader, is no worse than mine.

Sulu reports: "Transporter room, we are in position above Titan."  Well, DUH!  We might think that if the ship had come out of warp below the surface of the moon, everyone would probably have noticed, and "above" and "below" are meaningless in space.  If the ship rolls 180 degrees is it now "below" Titan?

In cognitive science studies, we would call Sulu's description an example of observer-centric bias.  This is the kind of perceptual distortion that science helps overcome, for example: it is natural for us not to feel any motion and to conclude quite reasonably the movement of the sun is real motion rather than resulting from planetary rotation at incredible speed over ludicrously large distances, even though we now know this is the case.  Similarly, since our earliest perceptions are formed in an orderly environment controlled by powerful, seemingly omniscient adults, we quite naturally conclude observable order in nature and living things is similarly the result of supernatural forces, rather than physical and statistical laws operating over astronomical, unimaginable periods of time.

Montgomery Scott, now sitting at transporter control replies with surprise that is another inappropriate attempt a humor with "Really? Fine job Mr. Sulu, well done."  How does he know Sulu's name?  Perhaps he heard it on the Bridge and remembered it along with the other dozen crew members up there.  Spock, Kirk, and Uhura come charging into the transporter room right on cue, and Kirk asks "How're we doing Scotty?"

"Unbelievably sir, the ship is in position."

Kirk opens a channel to the Bridge and orders "Whatever happens Mr. Sulu, if you think you have the tactical advantage you fire on that ship even if we're still on board.  That's an order."

No women speak in this segment, although Uhura's presence as "background" is briefly tolerated.

Groping for the right words in our next installment of Star Trek by the Minute 098: No Comment.

3 comments:

muser said...

Granted that there is no way Saturn can look like that if the Enterprise is where the movie wants it to be; however, there's no point in depicting Saturn at all without the rings from the point of view of most movie-goers or of the CGI artist. They might as well have used a moon of Jupiter in that case (or that big black obelisk that's in orbit around Jupiter... no, wait, wrong franchise). Anyway this is one mistake I'm willing to let slide just for the beauty of the shot (a sentiment that I think was first conveyed at BadAstronomy). I know it's wrong but it doesn't take me out of the movie. Of course I don't work on FTL propulsion systems, either.

BurntSynapse said...

By this point, I was so far out of the film it was not even a question. I'll need to go back to review the Bad Astronomy blog about the film.

MOCK! said...

muser wrote: They might as well have used a moon of Jupiter in that case (or that big black obelisk that's in orbit around Jupiter... no, wait, wrong franchise).

Hee-hee....